Monday, May 23, 2005

Welcome Back, Mr. Cheeks

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No music today, as I am going to lead off with the surprising news that just came across the wire. Jim O'Brien was fired as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, after just one season with team. Maurice Cheeks has been announced as his replacement, rejoining the team that he lead as a point guard for more than a decade.

All I can say is "Wowhuh?!?!" [That is the rarely used word that combines wow and huh, common in the Middle Ages I believe, but has fallen out of favor the last few centuries.] I had hoped to say a few words about this past Sixers season this week, as it has exceeded my highest expectations. Iverson clearly played the best of his career, and the young guys showed there is more there than potential. The team seemed to come together more and more as the season unfolded, usually a sign that the new coach and system are beginning to make sense. The team look great at times during the playoffs, a foul shot away from giving the defending champ Pistons all they could handle.

However, there had been lots of rumblings since the season ended, all of which centered on player frustration at O'Brien's decision-making. Where did Chris Webber fit in? Why didn't Willie Green play more? What role does Samuel Dalembert need to fill? Where is John Salmons?

I am not going to front and pretend that I saw this coming. O'Brien got this team to the playoffs, which was no easy task. It would have seemed that he earned a second year, a chance to fix these problems and continue to perfect the system that he wanted the team to run. Billy King, the 76ers' GM, has gone out on a limb here, changing coaches again after one season. You don't see the best teams in the league constantly going through coaches, do you? These reversals and lack of patience scare me, as a whole new system and coaching style will have to be learned.

However, it is real nice to have Mo Cheeks back. He is 0ne of the most loved athlete this city has ever known, a great basketball mind, well-respected by players. Everyone wanted him for the job last year, and now our wish has come true. I feel like the pieces are there, and I am excited for next season.

-The NBA playoffs continue tonight, with the Pistons travelling to Miami to open the Eastern Conference Finals. I can only say that these have been great playoffs so far, as the level of play and intensity have not been this high in years. The four best teams remain, meaning that this should be a great end to the only sports season that matters. There is nothing greater to me than to see teams play to win, exploiting the offensive talents of their stars. I hope that the Suns, Mavs, et al are heralding a new day in basketball, away from the ugliness that Larry Brown and other defense minded thugs wrought on the league for the past decade.

-"Shaq might have held Wilt to 98 points." Read this great piece on the Shaq vs. Wilt comparisons, as it is nice to see some reminiscing about the greatest of all-time, Wilt Chamberlain. I grew up hearing stories about Wilt from my father, hearing about the night he grabbed 52 rebounds against the Celtics (and Bill Russell), how they changed the rules to slow him down (three seconds in the lane, offensive goaltending) and about all of his legendary feats from Overbrook High School to the NBA. It's nice to see

-My favorite referral to Pound for Pound to date has been the google search for "Wilt Chamberlain penis size". That's going to be hard to beat, but I trust that the perverts who scour the Internet will top themselves soon enough. For the record, I do not know Wilt's penis size, but figure that it is a lot bigger than mine (no homo).

-Since this is a basketball-intensive post, I have to link to Bill Simmons thoughts on the game. Y'all know him as the Sports Guy from ESPN's Page Two. Go here, here and here (my all-time favorite, ranking the MVP race from Ron Artest at #425 to Shaq at #1) for some of the funniest, most intelligent writing on the sport today.

-Finally, Nike released the limited edition laser-etched Jordan IVs this past week, as those lucky enough to win the raffle now have a beautiful pair of kicks to sell for an outrageous price on eBay. Go here and here to check out pics. I am still not really feelin' the laser etchings, but it is nice to see Nike doing different things and utilizing technology for design. Of course, the fact that these are limited editon, cost hundreds of dollars to get a hold of, and can only be found through the Internet negates any positives about the design. It is a shame to see the sneaker game reduced to hype, but since I fiend after most of this ish, I am well-aware of my hypocrisy.

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